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‘Outrageous,’ interim police Supt. Charlie Beck says of accused cop shooter being free on bail

‘To release somebody that is suspected and charged with attempted murder on a police officer for a low amount of bail is outrageous,’ Beck told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Police investigate the shooting of Officer Fernando Soto after a traffic stop Nov. 20, 2018, near 87th Street and Ashland Avenue.
Police investigate the shooting of Officer Fernando Soto after a traffic stop Nov. 20, 2018, near 87th Street and Ashland Avenue.

Interim Chicago police Supt. Charlie Beck says he’s furious that a man accused of shooting an officer in 2018 was allowed to go free on bail.

“To release somebody that is suspected and charged with attempted murder on a police officer for a low amount of bail is outrageous,” Beck told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Officer Fernando Soto saw Bryce Jones-Lanum holding what looked like a gun while crossing 87th Street and Ashland Avenue on Nov. 20, 2018, police say. As he ran, Jones-Lanum pointed a .38-caliber revolver at Soto, and they exchanged fire, police say.

Soto escaped with a bruise after being shot in the back of his protective vest. Jones-Lanum, who’s now 22, was wounded.

Jones-Lanum initially was held without bail. But at a hearing in October Cook County Circuit Judge Diana Kenworthy granted him bail of $50,000, and he posted the required 10% bond to be released until trial.

“This is what my job is, to some — to make these hard calls,” the judge said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

She placed Jones-Lanum on electronic monitoring and required him to stay home unless he got a job or attended school.

Interim Supt. Charlie Beck: “outrageous.”
Interim Supt. Charlie Beck: “outrageous.”
Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Beck, a former Los Angeles police chief named interim Chicago superintendent last fall, says he doesn’t understand how Jones-Lanum qualified for bail.

“I am not a lock-everybody-up chief,” Beck said. “But I think violent criminals, especially ones who use handguns to commit violence, are a scourge on Chicago. There truly is a cycle of gun violence in Chicago that should be broken. Not all crimes are equal.”

Beck said although the shooting happened in 2018, the issue recently came to his attention because he was planning to attend a fund-raiser for officers’ protective vests.

Bryce Jones-Lanum arrest photo.
Bryce Jones-Lanum arrest photo.
Chicago Police Department

For years, police officials have complained about judges setting low bails or allowing no-cash bonds for felony suspects, especially those charged with gun crimes. Last August, the department unveiled its “Gun Offender Dashboard” website to publicize information about people charged with gun crimes.

Police said the aim was to highlight their view that judges allow too many gun crime suspects to go free on bail. The Cook County public defender’s office called it an invasion of privacy.

The site is no longer up, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, because the police department was told the information, from the court clerk’s office, is no longer available.

Jones-Lanum’s release is among several recent cases that have angered police officials.

One involved a man freed on bail on a charge of illegal gun possession. He was free and on electronic monitoring in January when he was charged with shooting and wounding a man.

Another man — freed on bail and placed on electronic monitoring after being charged with assaulting a cop — was charged with killing a man in November.

At a hearing Oct. 10, Jones-Lanum’s lawyer Leah Federman asked Kenworthy to reconsider the decision to keep him in jail without bail.

Prosecutor Jane Sack countered that Jones-Lanum was a threat to himself and others and admitted shooting first, so he didn’t merit bail. “He also stated that he wanted the officer to shoot him because his life is not good,” according to Sack, who said surveillance cameras captured the incident.

But Jones-Lanum’s lawyer said video from Soto’s body camera was “bouncy” and didn’t prove her client shot first. Federman said her client’s earlier arrests for marijuana, shoplifting and assault were dismissed and that “he hasn’t been a threat to the community.”

Federman also pointed to Jones-Lanum’s jobs as a security guard and furniture deliveryman and 26 letters of support from family and mentors.

“This is not your typical defendant who comes through these doors,” she said, adding that he was “caught in a situation.”

Kenworthy called the charges “incredibly serious.” But addressing Jones-Lanum, she said, “In my 25 years of doing this job, both as an attorney and a judge, I have never seen anyone have the support that you have. Never.”

The judge said she was interested to learn the officers were in an unmarked SUV and wearing plain clothes.

But their vests had “police” on them, the prosecutor said.

Kenworthy agreed to a $50,000 bail, noting that Jones-Lanum had done volunteer work and that his prior arrests didn’t involve weapons and urging him to get counseling.

“Make sure that you don’t do anything that would give me cause to think that I made a mistake and that you would need to be back in custody,” the judge said.

“OK,” Jones-Lanum replied.

Contributing: Andy Grimm